"I should...have killed you...when I had the chance..." the last syllable trailed off into a hiss. He reached out with his other hand and clumsily hooked his bloody fingers over the metal ring that Devin wore around her neck. The collar that he had put there many years ago.
She said nothing, only pushed him , and his legs gave way. He slid off of her knife, toward the floor, his fingers coming free of her collar. His own weight pulled him down and a crimson trail marked the path of his hand down her throat and flight suit, stained by the blood that flowed from his busted knuckles. He landed hard on his back and was still. Devin looked down on him, nothing showing in her eyes. No emotion. No remorse. There was only the darksome, empty gaze of one who had no fear of entering into death.
Her eyes clung to the man when his corpse twitched. His face was barely recognizable. Blood darkened his once pale skin, and washed into his eyes. His nose was crushed against his face, the bones splintering through the softer cartilage and flesh. As she stared down at him, she could not recall what he had looked like. His eyes were blue, yes. His hair was blonde, certainly. She could see that much. But the finer details of his visage evaded her memory. It was odd to her that she had spent so much of her life hating this man, hunting him, seeking him out for the soul purpose of destroying him. Artiman had done terrible things to her long ago, to her family, to her people. He had tortured so many that she once held dear. And now, in the instant she had disposed of him, he was forgotten.
She lifted her gaze toward the open door that usually allowed mid day's light to pour through it. The threshold was darkened by a single figure silhouetted by the sunlight. Light rolled over the dull dome of his helm, showing her its dark blue-green color. The tall stem of motion sensory equipment rose from the right side of the helm, and a pattern of short, vertical stripes were painted in a harsh spatter of yellow above and to the left of the worn red face plate. The dark " T " shaped visor appeared deep and empty until he turned his head and the dim tavern light streamed over the slick visual plate like an electric surge.
Devon only looked at Boba Feet as she wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth. She could not be certain that it was her own. She spat the taste of copper from her lips, never taking her eyes off of the bounty hunter. Pain was a dull buzz in her ears. Her split knuckles stung, and the purple bruise on her cheek made the left side of her face feel numb. She ran her tongue over her teeth and flinched as a loose tooth wiggled and sent an electric pang through her jaw. She drew in a sharp breath, and a stabbing pain ran over her side. She was certain that a few of her ribs were cracked.
Boba Fett moved inside, smoothly, and edged down the dark wall, head still turned toward her and the brilliant crimson spatter at her feet. The black visor flashed as he looked around the demolished tavern. It was a wreck. Overturned tables and broken chairs littered the dark room. Her blaster lay against the far wall, either knocked from her grasp or discarded for the more personal vibroblade she now held. Her helm lay amidst a heap of fragmented chairs, a burned ellipse marking the place where blaster fire had slammed into it. Indeed, a small trickle of blood ran from her scalp and dripped from her chin. Shards of mugs and glassware glittered on the grey plascrete floor. Various personal items lay abandoned and scattered all around the room. The place was empty now. All of its patrons and even the owner had fled into the streets.
She could not see his eyes, but she knew that they were locked on her. She wondered what those terrible eyes looked like. Dark and unforgiving like the void of space, or pale and piercing as the frozen comets that hurtled through it. She did not know, but it seemed to matter little. She only knew that whatever orbs were hidden behind that emotionless black visor, she could feel them, cautious and drawn to her violence. He could probably feel her fear of him, for he alone had been able to subdue her when no one else could.
He was Boba Fett, the most feared of bounty hunters. He was skilled and certainly clever. He had a way of out thinking his acquisitions, of being where they were at all times. And Devin hated him as much as she had hated Artiman. For it was Boba Fett who had delivered her to him. The horrible memories came swimming back.
Boba Fett remembered her, always had. She had been burned into his memory for many years, the one who wore the mark around her neck. He always knew that their paths would cross again. It did not surprise him to find her here, with Artiman. He had heard that she was a bounty hunter now, seeking out the vilest of criminals, cruel murderers and passing her own judgment on them. There was little money to be made this way, but she was not in it for the pay, of that he was certain. But there was a hefty price on Artiman's head and his distaste for him only made the hunt worth that much more.
Devin Kel'loriz was still just as he remembered her; impressive to behold, as tall as most human men he had met in his life, though much more lean. He guessed that she had been here following Artiman for some time, for the hot summer months were upon them and her skin was dark, almost bronze, tanned by long hours of exposure to the sun. Strands of her long black hair clung to the sweat on her neck and face She wore a faded blue flight suit under bits of composite armor, which bore the discolored marks of dispute. He noted the ring of pale skin around her neck only a few centimeters wide. His eyes moved then, to the collar that had made the mark, a smooth ring of pale metal. He looked into her dark eyes and found them filled with a perilous gleam he had only ever seen in the eyes of his most dangerous acquisitions. Her face was stern, her lips drawn into an emotionless line. She stared at him, with a hot, damning gaze, her eyes seeming to lock on his own. He wond! ered, for only a moment, if she was somehow able to pierce the veil of his dark visor, to look into his eyes, or even his soul.
That stare reminded him of their first meeting so long ago. She had been unusually difficult to track. She did not seem to have any patterns or contacts. There was no trail to follow. No one seemed to know her, even on her own world. But, he had eventually figured out her maneuvers. He arrived just in time to catch her trying to assassinate his client, Artiman Keztril.
He had not known why Keztril wanted her. Certainly, by the look of her records, she cared little for the law. And he knew from his experience trying to track her that she was dangerous. Other than that, if left to her own devices, Devin was a threat only to those who sought to do her harm.
She had put up an impressive fight, proving herself to be quite competent in the empty handed arts. He spent several days after her capture nursing bruised ribs and aching muscles. The memory of pain made him recall the punishment Artiman had in store for her, a terrible sort of torture that would provide him with no information, only a rush of cruel power. He was given his payment as Artiman's guards strapped Devin to the cold metal table with her limbs bound. Her armor had been stripped away, and her flight suit was torn by rough handling.
"Feel free to scream, Devin." Artiman had snorted. " I promise you that the pain will be a new experience for you. It won't stop until you beg me to let you go."
Boba Fett still bristled at his cruelty.
"Do you know why I'm letting you live, Devin?" Artiman had asked.
She did not answer.
"Because death is the only release from me. You know that, don't you?"
Devin spat a hateful curse at him.
"And so you will live." Artiman whispered.
He moved away from her, to the other side of the room. There he nodded to his guards and spoke again as they worked.
"You may begin, Captain."
Boba Fett watched as Devin threw her hate filled gaze at Artiman. Then she turned her eyes on him. He could see that she hated them both, and there was a rage in her heart that fueled her to the grimmest of thoughts.
The memory hammered into Devin. The pain had come without warning, severing her thoughts. There was no mechanical âCLICK'. There was no hum of equipment, no clanging of instruments. It simply began, born out of the silence. It was sudden and cold, an electric pain that startled her. Her muscles jumped, tried to spasm. Her heart heat began to race. It hurt, but it was not unbearable. She held her tongue and remained silent.
âWe know you're strong, Devin." Artiman had chuckled. "There is nothing to prove to me or to the bounty hunter. I assure you, your resolve will not impress us."
The pain grew more intense, a cold surge of violent muscle cramps accompanied by a dull ache that filled her bones. Her ears began to ring. She began to see small sparks of white light. She clenched her teeth together, lips drawn back as she hissed at her captures.
"More, I think, captain. Perhaps it will loosen her tongue for us."
The pain slammed into her, a white hot agony that ripped through her body. It set all her nerves ablaze. Her back arched up off the table, the muscles in her body straining. The straps that bound her whined as she hauled her body upward. The muscle in her jaw locked, her teeth still clenched togther so tightly they felt as if they would burst. Spittle ran from the corners of her mouth as her tongue moved to make words that came out only as sharp surges of breath. She tried so desperately to deny Artiman the sound he wanted to hear.
She had looked at Boba Fett then, standing so still in the spinning room. How could he watch? How could he stand it, the sound of such terrible pain, the sight of pointless torture? He held the load of his blaster rifle firmly, as though it were weightless in his hands. He turned away from her then, still silent, still cradling his blaster as if it were the only thing in life that gave him comfort. And he walked away.
She remembered that her vision fell into a brilliant light and a dizzying buzz filled her ears. A scream tore at her lips, begging for release, and she could be silent no longer. She opened her mouth to cry out. The noise was terrible, agony and hatred captured by sound. She heard Artiman chuckle beside her just as the white light began to darken into inky blackness. She coughed up broken words, telling Artiman that she would kill him. In a moment her tongue failed her. She slipped into unconsciousness and dreamless sleep.
Boba Fett knew Devin had threatened Artiman on many occasions. But on that day, she told him that she would kill him. For the first time, he believed her. He had not been at all surprised to hear that Devin escaped only a few hours later. Wounded, weak and unarmed, she fought her way through several guards, and found her freedom. Now, years later, they stood face to face once more, both wondering what the other would do. Devin had denied him his bounty by claiming it for herself, and he had denied her freedom on her own world.
He watched as she moved toward him, a slow, deliberate pace. Though his blaster tracked her movements, she never took her eyes from his. She stood before him in a moment, close enough to touch him. She stared up into the dark visor without a word. Her hand went to her throat, her fingers running over the cool metal collar that encircled her neck. A surge powerful emotion flooded her stare, a maelstrom of anger, hate and bitterness. She locked her fingers around the collar and hissed a damning word as she tore at the ring. The metal whined under her straining white knuckles as it gave way. It broke and came away from her skin, its ragged edges cutting a shallow path of bright red into her soft flesh. She rolled the collar through her fingers for a moment, and then laid it on the table beside them. She looked at him a moment longer, then moved past him, their shoulders brushing. She stepped out into the street, and was gone.
Hours later he sat in the dark cockpit of Slave1. The engines were still, and he could only hear the strange, vast silence of space. He sat rolling the thin metal ring through his fingers, his eyes moving over its smooth shape. There were small worn places where Devin had absentmindedly rubbed the metal with her fingertips. Tiny pits and chips gave him a glimpse of her lifestyle, rough and unforgiving.
In his cargo hold the body of Artiman Keztril awaited delivery to his client. Somewhere, out there in the boundless darkness of space, Devin Kel'loriz hurtled toward a glimmering star, leaving herself behind, and seeking out a new identity.
The control panel cast an pale, eerie light across his ungloved hands and the collar they held. He sighed and stared at the number etched into the back side of ring, 18795. His helm sat on the control panel, the unjudging black visor staring back at him.